Sensory processing challenges and sensory processing disorder are becoming more and more common in children.
Sensory processing disorder is more common in children with Autism, A.D.H.D, Downs syndrome and other genetic conditions and in kids who were born prematurely but it can also be a stand-alone condition.
Watch the video or continue reading below to find out more about my Naturopathic approach to sensory processing disorder.
Senses are ways we process information from the outside world.
Our senses are designed to keep us safe, we also learn, explore and enjoy the world around us through our senses but children with sensory processing disorder find it difficult to process sensory information from the world around them.
I recently heard an occupational therapist use the analogy of a paper plate – if we overload a paper plate at a bbq it will fall apart (sensory processing disorder) Two things we can do, put less food on the plate (reduce sensory load) or find a stronger plate. (strengthen the child so they can process sensory information more effectively)
She recommended we need to work on both in children with sensory processing disorder and I agree.
In my naturopathic clinic, I most often see kids with feeding sensory challenges, these kids are challenged by lumps, foods mixed together, strong smells, hot or cold foods, even the noise of food cooking can be challenging for these kids! These feeding sensory challenges are often combined with other sensory challenges too such as noisy environments, lights or touch.
Essentially, Sensory processing disorder is a neurological problem so my naturopathic treatment centres around supporting and improving the brain and nervous system in 4 main ways.
- Nutrition to support neurological function
- Reducing heavy metals and toxins (especially those that have an affinity for the brain and nervous system)
- Enhancing gut health – I talk about the gut-brain connection here and here is more in-depth scientific information
- Improving sensory integration with outdoor and sensory play.
Today I want to delve into some specific nutrients to support neurological function
The nervous system needs magnesium to transmit electrical information. When a deﬁciency occurs, nerve signal transmission is inefﬁcient. The signals may arrive more slowly or less accurately than normal. Magnesium is also important for a healthy stress response and children with sensory processing disorder experience a stress response on a more frequent and more intense basis
Zinc is a modulator of synaptic activity, neuronal plasticity and healthy brain function
It is also required for proper digestive function (kids with neurological conditions such as sensory processing disorder often have poor gut function) so you get a double positive effect from increasing your child’s intake of zinc.
Omega-3 fatty acids help support brain development and normal brain function so are essential for neurological health. There is increasing evidence that increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), benefits a variety of neurological disorders.
The B vitamins include a range of nutrients from B1 to B12 and have varied roles to play in brain and nervous system health. Here are just a few examples
- Vitamin B6, is essential for the synthesis of practically all the neurotransmitters (chemicals which help to transmit messages in the CNS)
- Vitamin B12 is essential for the maintenance of myelin (a component of the CNS) and inadequate synthesis of myelin leads to neurological damage.
- Folic acid (Vitamin B9) prevents neural tube defects such as spina bifida in babies
An MTHFR gene mutation can change the way some people metabolize and convert important nutrients such as folic acid into active vitamins, minerals and proteins. MTHFR genetic mutations can be linked to many health symptoms and conditions including neurological conditions. MTHFR testing is simple and inexpensive, get in touch if you are interested in having your child tested or would like support with MTHFR support.
As you can see there are many factors to consider when treating sensory processing disorder or sensory processing challenges. Naturopathy can help to optimise the results you get from working with an occupational therapist or other behavioural therapist.
Find out more about getting support for your child’s sensory processing disorder here
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